Welcome to Balanced Rocks: Pictures and Stories

Beginning March 16,2010, I began a journey of balancing rocks. I hold to the practice of setting to balance at least five sculptures a day, sometimes, many more. Of these I take lots of pictures and videos. While conducting this adventure, I have been introduced to an incredible unfolding story. Additionally, I discovered this phenomenon is manifesting worldwide. As I post pictures and stories, I found many others similarly engaged and sharing their works. Additionally, as folks come upon me performing my work, many want to find out how this is done and try themselves. This blog shares this work in both pictures and stories. Enjoy


A seeming impossibility becomes possible

Rock Balancing: The Beginning

On a fine summer day, sometime in August, 2009, I was visiting family in Toronto. Like most folks spending summer in a large city, we used up as much time as we could finding outdoor events that would cool us. One afternoon, we headed to the Beaches section of East Toronto. After spending some time playing in a large sandbox in the shade with my grandkids and some of their newfound companions, we headed to the Boardwalk that extends from Balmy Beach to Kew Gardens. Ella accompanied me, Liam took off with his mom, Natalie. They ventured down the boardwalk, Ella and I headed onto the sand toward the water’s edge. Halfway there we encountered what looked like a small size Stonehenge.

About a dozen sculptures were gathered together in a rough circle. Each was a stack of two or three rocks balanced one on another. The tallest one was slightly taller than Ella, who was small average height for a five year older. All were in the neighborhood of three feet and four feet tall. What immediately jumped out was the precarious nature of the balancing. Most points of contact were miraculously slight. Most seemed to be standing on a point. Two more folks were witnessing this amazing display. We imagined that there must be small metal rods embedded at the point of contact, or else some kind of glue was used. Each of us peered from close low angles to detect what could account for this mystical display. Ella, not being so cautious, toppled one structure over. Luckily, it did not land on her.

I hurried over and picked up the fallen rock. I saw no evidence of a rod or glue. It indeed had been balanced on its pedestal. I lifted it up and tried to place it back where I reckoned it had been balanced. I cautioned Ella, to be careful and not upset any more sculptures and went about the task of finding balance. I was not successful and struggled immensely but did not find the magic spot where stability could be achieved. After a lengthy effort, an attractive Asian woman about my age approached and gently nudged me aside offering to demonstrate her work. She pointed to the spot she would set the stone upon. She called it by a foreign name. To me it looked like a slight dimple.

Placing the small end of the upper rock into that hollow, she deftly and quickly moved it around, slightly twisting and cajoling it into position. The sight of this slender woman with longish graying hair performing an intricate dance with a rock slightly larger than her head emanated calmness. It seemed only the ends of her fingers were used to achieve these small movements. Apparently, equilibrium was close. Shortly she was done and withdrew her palms which naturally assumed an open prayer posture. The rock I had grappled with was majestically resting in its previous stable state. She next went over and reset two other structures, I had not noticed were also amiss. I just took them to be part of the rubble strewn about the beach. Now all the display was standing and providing a small sense of order in our chaotic world.

I never got this woman’s name, but heard her story. She had set this display up for the purpose of taking pictures, one of which she hoped to use for a cover of a book she was publishing. Unfortunately not getting her name makes it difficult to find her book. But I carried away with me the sight of her presentation and the incredible feeling I had witnessed an amazing ethereal event. I also felt an urge to explore this practice.

Rock in the Snow

Rock in the Snow
January in Toronto

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fighting Fire with Fire

At first it seems a strange concept to fight using the same element that threatens to consume. Firefighters do just as their name implies. They struggle to overcome fire that by its nature wants to consume everything burnable within its reach. When fire is contained within a structure, the firefighting tactic often used is to prevent adjacent structures from igniting and letting the fire burn itself out. This happens when the fire consumes all its fuel and extinguishes by starvation. There is nothing left to consume. When fires are out in the open another tactic presents itself.
Small controlled fires are used to remove combustibles from a fire’s path. In the open, fires are often steered by winds. Sparks are driven in the direction of prevailing winds spreading fire that way. Fires usually do not double back since in their tracks nothing burnable is left. So they are left to head in the direction they are being blown. Smaller scale fires are more able to be controlled. So far in front of raging wildfire, smaller fires are lit and prevented from spreading in in the direction of prevailing winds. They will however, head slowly against the wind in search of combustibles. As larger fire advances toward the smaller one, air is sucked toward the larger blaze. This creates a small wind current that entices the smaller fire to head toward the larger one . As they meet they help burn each other out.
To aid in carrying out this tactic a network of cleared lanes are laid out in areas susceptible to fires. These lanes are termed fire lanes, fire breaks, or other descriptors that denote a place were fire can be interrupted. These lanes have a duel purpose. They provide access to a wide swath of land in front of an approaching fire. They also give a small lane where nothing much combustible is present. This renders a good place to start small fires and prevent them from crossing the road to the unburnt side. Along these ways, firefighters can easily control fires they light and send off toward the approaching inferno.
I witnessed this tactic being applied on a small island that was being threatened by a rapidly spreading blaze. Penikese Island holds 78 acres and is located 14 miles from mainland Massachusetts. Located in southern Buzzards Bay, it is susceptible to strong ocean breezes. On its premises is a small residential school for adolescent boys. Besides a few small buildings, the island is covered with shrubs and grasslands. In April, the greenery has yet to bloom and still presents last year’s dried growth, a good source of combustibles. That month in 2006, a small fire started on the south west side and rapidly built into an uncontrollable inferno. Breezes were driving it in a Northeasterly direction. Luckily, a small pathway bisects the island from north to south. The fire was several hundred yards from this break. Some staff and a few students headed up the path lighting small fires on the western side of the lane.
At each fire, someone was left with a shovel to beat down any flames that threatened to cross the road. These small fires were only allowed to head against the wind in a westerly direction. Slowly they proceeded that way. As the wildfire closed in, the smaller blazes hurried to meet it. Finally it consumed itself and the island residents celebrated the sparing of their structures, all located to the east of the fire lane. Until new growth sprouted anyone approaching Penikese would witness it half blackened, neatly divided by the firebreak.


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About Me, Part One

My photo
Rock Balancing: The Beginning. What began as a journal of my travels took a hiatus when I began to settle in Ithaca NY. In the meantime, I took up the practice of setting rocks to balance. I returned to my blog to begin recording this story

Part, The second

On Easter Sunday Morning, 2008, I made a decision to settle in the Ithaca New York area. At the same time, I decided to continue to post my blog, However, the stories now will come from the archive stored internally. These will be the stories I gathered while on previous journeys and never entrusted to paper. The date of each posting will not reflect the date of the story being related but will mark the date that narrative got inscribed.

Carry wood

Carry wood
33 years later

Part: The third

I took a brief hiatus from my daily blog writing. I did not know the direction it would take. part of me thought I would abandon it. It turns out I missed it. The old title "On the Road Again' is no longer apt. It appears I am settling. The travel stories will age to a point, when I will probably resusitiate them and do something with them. I dusted off some old stories and begin this new series.
Thr first is one was written two years ago. I edited it and begin again a series that is more apropos to someone settling in upper New York State. They are meant to warm, amuse, educate and sometimes inflame.